Senior RHP Brian Dupra.

Irish Drop Another Nailbiter; Connecticut Edges Notre Dame, 3-1

April 8, 2011

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The game featured a matchup between arguably the top two pitchers in the BIG EAST Conference — Notre Dame’s Brian Dupra and Connecticut’s Matt Barnes. Neither right-handed hurler disappointed, but Barnes was the benefactor of quality situational hitting as UConn slipped past the Irish, 3-1, in the BIG EAST series opener at Frank Eck Stadium Friday night.

The Huskies improved to 16-10-1 overall and 6-1 in the conference, while Notre Dame dropped to 12-15-1 and 3-4.

Barnes improved to 6-2 on the year. He allowed one earned run on four hits in 7.1 innings. Barnes, who will likely be a top-10 overall selection in this June’s MLB draft, struck out five and walked two.

Kevin Vance collected his fourth save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning, but it was not without an Irish rally.

Senior LF Matt Grosso drew a leadoff walk and senior 3B Greg Sherry singled to put two on and nobody out, but sophomore C Joe Hudson popped out to third on his sacrifice bunt attempt, which would have moved the tying run into scoring position. Vance then got sophomore DH Adam Norton to pop out and sophomore 2B Frank DeSico to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

Dupra was charged with the loss and dropped to 2-3 on the year. He limited the Huskies to just two runs, one of which was unearned, on six hits in 7.1 innings. Dupra fanned four and walked three. He lowered his season ERA to a gaudy 1.64. Dupra has allowed exactly one earned run in 21.0 innings of work over his three BIG EAST starts, yet is 0-1 over that stretch.

Notre Dame stranded nine on the base paths, while UConn plated two of its three runs on sacrifice flies.

Fifth-year senior Herman Petzold and senior 3B Greg Sherry were the only two Irish players to collect multiple hits. Petzold went 2-for-3, while Sherry went 2-for-4 with an RBI single.

George Springer, the second certain first round pick on the Huskies, went 2-for-3 with a run scored and stolen base. John Andreoli went 2-for-3 with a run scored. Ryan Fuller and Tim Martin added critical sacrifice flies as well.

Barnes and Dupra were untouchable over the first 6.0 innings of the contest. The two matched scoreless inning after scoreless inning.

Dupra evaded a little two-out trouble in the top of the first inning. After retiring the first two Huskies of the ball game, Dupra plunked Springer on a 3-2 pitch and Mike Nemeth followed with a seeing-eye single to left field, but the Irish co-captain got a foul out to end the inning.

Dupra retired six of the next seven in the UConn lineup, working around a one-out walk in the second, thanks to a 4-6-3 double play. He and the Irish defense kept the Huskies scoreless in the fourth. Springer singled to open the inning and moved up one base on Nemeth’s ground out (Springer took off on the 3-2 offering to avoid a potential double play), but was promptly picked off by Dupra at second base. Fuller followed with a two-out single, but was gunned down trying to steal by Hudson.

Barnes held the Irish hitless over the first three innings, but ran into some trouble in the fourth. Freshman 1B Trey Mancini and Petzold collected back-to-back, two-out singles. Barnes then uncorked a wild pitch to advance both runners into scoring position. Grosso followed with a walk to load the bases, but Barnes regrouped and got Sherry to ground out to end the Irish threat.

Dupra and Hudson, again, took advantage of an aggressive Huskies lineup. Andreoli opened the fifth with a single. After Elliot popped out on a sacrifice bunt attempt and Dupra punched out Martin, Hudson fired another strike to second base to nail Andreoli trying to steal and end the inning.

With the game deadlocked, 0-0, in the top of the seventh inning, UConn finally scratched a run off Dupra. Springer singled and promptly stole second base. Nemeth followed with a ground ball to the right side to advance Springer to third base and Fuller followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.

The earned run was the first allowed by Dupra in 20.1 innings of BIG EAST action.

Barnes, who had retired seven consecutive Irish batters after Sherry’s ground out with the bases loaded in the fourth, was greeted by Petzold with a leadoff single to open the seventh inning. Grosso was not able to executed the ensuing sacrifice bunt as Sherry was gunned down at second base by the fielding Barnes, but did move into scoring position following Barnes’ wild pitch and raced home on Sherry’s game-tying RBI single. Grosso slid home safely just underneath the tag of UConn’s catcher Doug Elliot.

The game remained tied, 1-1, heading to the eighth inning. Dupra struck out Martin to open the inning, but plunked Billy Ferriter — his second hit batter of the game. Dupra, who had hit one batter all season entering the contest, had only plunked more than one batter in a game on two previous appearances over his four-year career.

Ferriter then scampered into scoring position on Hudson’s passed ball. Ahmed followed with a single to right field to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead. The base hit ended the evening for Dupra.

Freshman RHP Sean Fitzgerald got the final two outs of the inning, including a strikeout of Springer on three pitches.

Notre Dame had a golden opportunity to square the game again in the eighth. Senior SS Mick Doyle drew a one-out walk, which ended Barnes’ outing, and moved into scoring position following Dan Feehan’s errant throw on a failed pickoff attempt. Freshman CF Eric Jagielo then legged out an infield single. Fuller saved a run with a backhanded stop ranging back toward the left field line.

With runners two on and just one out, Feehan got Mancini to pop out and Petzold to fly out to end the threat.

The Huskies added a critical insurance run in the top of the ninth inning to grab a 3-1 advantage. Andreoli singled with one out and raced to third on Elliot’s perfectly executed hit-and-run single. DeSico was forced to range toward the second base bag to cover and Elliot’s grounder slipped past the vacated second base hole. The grounder was a routine 4-6-3, inning-ending double play without Andreoli taking off on the pitch.

Martin then followed with a sacrifice fly, the Huskies’ second of the game, to give Vance a two-run cushion in the ninth.

Notre Dame and UConn will return to action at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday at Frank Eck Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on WHME Harvest 103.1 FM and live audio and video will be available online at Live stats will also be available on GameTracker.

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